The purpose of the design-based research reported here is to show – as a proof of principle – how the idea of scaffolding can be used to support primary teachers in a professional development programme (PDP) to design and enact language-oriented science lessons. The PDP consisted of six sessions of 2.5 h each in which twelve primary school teachers took part over a period of six months. It centralised the language support that pupils need to reason during science lessons. In line with the idea of scaffolding, the structure of the PDP targeted teachers' gradual independence in designing lessons. The first research question is how scaffolding was enacted during the PDP. The analysis of video recordings, field notes, researcher and teacher logs, and teacher design assignments focused on the enactment of three scaffolding characteristics: diagnosis, responsiveness and handover to independence. The second research question concerns what teachers learned from the participation in the PDP that followed a scaffolding approach. The data analysis illustrates that these teachers had learned much in terms of designing and enacting language-oriented science lessons. In terms of diagnosis and responsiveness, our PDP approach was successful, but we problematise the ideal of scaffolding approaches focused on handover to independence.